NYU Silver Professor Michelle R. Munson and Wayne State University School of Social Work’s Suzanne Brown, co-leads for the Grand Challenges for Social Work’s Eradicate Social Isolation challenge, have edited a Special Issue of Clinical Social Work Journal (CSWJ) on Social Isolation Across the Lifespan. The issue addresses gaps in our understanding of the causes and consequences of social isolation and loneliness, and places our understanding of them within developmental and social justice frameworks.
The authors conclude the introduction to the special issue with the following message:
“Each article in this special issue demonstrates that individuals and families struggle with social isolation and loneliness across the developmental spectrum and speaks to the importance of Social Work’s Grand Challenge to Eradicate Social Isolation. Isolation and loneliness manifest in different ways for different people, suggesting the importance of clinicians assessing both the objective qualities of clients’ social networks as well as their felt sense of loneliness. Interventions that cross the micro, mezzo, and macro levels are important to combatting social isolation, especially as structural barriers related to stigma and marginalization intensify isolation. The use of technology, while in some cases emblematic of social isolation, may in other cases be a useful platform for interventions that reduce isolation. Peer support and the facilitation of peer helping relationships, especially for those with stigmatized identities, may be both empowering and decrease isolation for populations such as LGBTQ+ elders, individuals with HIV, and immigrants. Family based interventions to decrease loneliness and isolation among parents can have ripple effects on the health and well being of children, as can interventions that enable parents to facilitate mentoring relationships for their children.
As co-editors of this Special Issue, our goal was to bring together a diverse set of conceptual and empirical papers that begin to elucidate the complex interplay between developmental period, social location, and social isolation. Methodologically these papers utilize a range of quantitative research methods that identify causes and consequences of isolation and loneliness, as well as qualitative methods that give voice to those for whom experiences of stigma and social exclusion are inextricably linked to social isolation. It is our hope that this special issue will initiate a sustained interest in working across micro, mezzo, and macro levels to reduce social isolation in a society where isolation and loneliness are increasingly problematic. As a profession, Social Work is uniquely positioned to approach human suffering from both developmental and social justice perspectives. We hope that this special issue will allow for the conceptual framing of social isolation as a phenomenon with implications across the life course, and that it moves you, the reader, to a deeper, more nuanced, and contextualized understanding of social isolation and loneliness.”